Home » Movie Review: ‘Avatar’ Sequel Collapses Under New Ensemble, Subplots

Movie Review: ‘Avatar’ Sequel Collapses Under New Ensemble, Subplots

by Stewart Cole


From left to right, Jamie Flatters, Zoe Saldana, Britain Dalton and Sam Worthington star in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Dec. 13 (UPI) — Avatar: The Way of Water, in theaters Friday, it’s proving more frustrating than waiting 13 years for the sequel Avatar. The new movie introduces too many new characters and serves none of them.

After becoming a bona fide Na’vi at the end of it Avatar, Jake Sully (Sam Worthingon) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) had children on the planet Pandora. Years later, the people of Earth return.

This time, the refugees of a dying Earth want to go to Pandora instead of plundering it for resources. This includes a clone of Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who has also adopted a Na’vi body.

Jake moves his family to a sea tribe of Na’vi so Quaritch doesn’t invade their forest looking for him, and that part of the plot is stupid. It’s long overdue for the inevitable showdown with Quaritch. Will any viewer really think that concealment can work?

Among the sea tribe, the focus shifts to the children. Jake’s youngest son, Loak (Brittany Dalton), is at odds with some sea tribe bullies.

But the bully kids mostly disappear in the second half of the film after a hasty resolution to their conflict. Meanwhile, Lo’ak bonds with an endangered sea creature, so he is able to lead the Na’Vi to help their kind.

Jake’s daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), was born from the avatar of the scientist Grace in the first film. She spends part of the film questioning her origins and why she is different from the other Na’vi.

A more blatant subplot of Kiri suggests an essential dilemma between Jake and Earth’s science and Na’vi spirituality. But then Kiri loses his entire character arc on the way to suddenly solving this issue.

It seems that Jake and Neytiri have no life outside of their children, which parents can feel sometimes. It’s a disappointment to whoever came next Avatar to see its stars Avatar.

Jake faces a bit of trying to balance being a dad and a soldier, but only to the extent that his parenting causes conflict between his children. They have two other children (Jamie Flatters and Trinity Jo-Li bliss) with subplots, as well as a human (Jack Champion) born on the space station who is too young to return to Earth, and all the sea tribe members to balance.

Quaritch preparing a backup clone of himself in case of his death makes a bit more sense than Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s unexplained resurrection of Emperor Palpatine. However, it makes equally little narrative sense.

It is clear what Avatar creative James Cameron he wanted to explore was the sea tribe of Pandora. So why bring earthlings back?

The Water Road it should have created a conflict between the different races of Pandora. That way the film could explore the different customs and abilities of the other Na’Vi races without rehashing a revenge plot.

There are hints of a more interesting Quaritch story in which he might have a Na’vi experience this time around, but no, it’s just the same old Quaritch in a new body. There is another resource as valuable as unobtanium in the first film, as well as a secondary villain that isn’t introduced until halfway through the film.

All new races, creatures and machines come together in an exciting climax of action. It’s a shame that Jake and Neytiri’s daughters become damsels in distress, but otherwise the finale is exciting.

Avatar: The Way of Water uses high frame rate photography, previously used in Hobbit movie theater, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk and Gemini man. If Avatar it’s someone’s first exposure to the format, it’s going to be jarring because it’s a very different way to watch movies.

Unlike previous films that used a high frame rate for the duration of the film, The Way of Water alternates between high frame rate and traditional footage. This can also be annoying as it goes from normal to high frame rate in the same scene.

The high frame rate works best with underwater sequences. Perhaps because the underwater motion is already necessarily slowed down, the increased sharpness of the high frame rate improves the footage.

Building his world Avatar made the prospect of more Pandora movies exciting. Unfortunately, Avatar: The Way of Water he has only superficial interests in exploring the possibilities of this world.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more about his work at Entertainment.

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